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THE Mongols were originally only one small clan among the numerous tribes bordering on the Chinese Empire. They had little to distinguish them from their neighbours in the vast region between the provinces of Pechihli, Shansi, Shensi, and Kansuh on the one side, and the great river Amour or Saghalien on the other. They were all alike-shepherds, hunters, and robbers, varying their pursuits with their needs or their whims, and with the season of the year. But for Genghis Khan, it is probable that they would never have been anything more than one of the pests of the settled populations within their reach, and even the supreme ability and good fortune of that conqueror failed to make them the dominant power in China. It was reserved for his grandson Kublai to crown the Mongol triumph by the most brilliant of all their successes ; but the extraordinary rise of this race to power is not to be lightly dismissed, more especially as it forms a subject of exceptionally varied and striking interest.
In the strip of territory lying between the Onon and the Kerulon rivers, both affluents of the Amour, may be found the cradle of the Mongol race. This retreat, almost impenetrable to outside attack, and containing within itself all the necessaries for a frugal people, was no unfit abode for the ancestors of a race destined to exercise a world-wide sway. When they first issued from their own valleys in the ninth century as a portion of the great horde of the Shiwei, they attracted notice by their more than common courage and physical strength, earning either then, or perhaps in some VOL. I.
earlier raid against their neighbours, the title of Mongol, or “the brave.” They were included by the Chinese with the rest of the tribute-paying clans beyond the northern confines, and from the ninth to the eleventh century their history presents no point of special interest. Doubtless they were not unrepresented in the ranks of those hordes which troubled the border officials of the Emperor, and which in time produced the various dynasties whose careers have already been described. At some remoter period it is possible that the Mongols were merely a section of the Hiongnou, and Genghis claimed descent from the Royal House of that celebrated people. It is not at all improbable therefore that Attila and Genghis, the two great conquerors specially known as the Scourges of God, came of the same stock, and represented one of those races which had been cast out by the civilization and millions of China.
Budan-tsar, in the tenth century, was the immediate progenitor of the House of Genghis. He it was who first conquered the district between the Onon and the Kerulon, and who laid the seed of Mongol power. Vested by popular fancy with an abnormal origin, Budan-tsar consolidated his power by the human means of decision of mind and energy in action, and in the first proclamation he issued to his followers there is perceptible a confidence in himself that augured well for the success of the undertaking he began. " What,” said he, “is the use of embarrassing ourselves with wealth? Is not the fate of men decreed by Heaven?” The object he desired to accomplish was not so much the accumulation of riches, by the plunder of cities and the devastation of provinces, as it was the founding of a free and vigorous community. He succeeded in his design, and Budan-tsar struck the first blow for Mongol greatness, and laid the foundation of its future power deep into the ground.
In the twelfth century Budan-tsar's descendant Kabul Khan was the recognized chief of the Mongol tribe. It had been foretold to him that his descendants were to exercise Imperial authority, and his attitude towards the Emperor of Northern China was apparently dictated by such pretensions. In the year A.D. 1135 we know that he had begun to molest
THE FATHER OF GENGHIS.
the Kin frontier, and the Emperor Hola had in consequence been compelled to send an army against him. Kabul had in the reign of the wise Oukimai, visited the Kin capital, where he showed an independence of demeanour that would have led to his condign punishment, but for the forbearance of that ruler. After his return from this visit he showed an increased feeling of bitterness towards the Kins, and Hola had to send his general, Hushahu, to bring him into subjection. The Kin general is supposed to have set out on his expedition in A.D. 1135, but his progress was slow. He suffered much from scarcity of provisions, and was at length compelled to retreat, when the Mongols not only pressed him hard, but inflicted a crushing defeat on his army in the neighbourhood of Hailing. In A.D. 1139 a stronger army was sent against Kabul, but eight years later the war remained undecided. The result had been favourable to the Mongols, who were fast making themselves the heirs of the Kins. They had been joined by several of the neighbouring tribes, and Kabul Khan had refused to accept a lower style at the hands of the Kin authorities than that of Great Emperor of the Mongols. The surrender of twenty-seven fortified places was a still more expressive testimony to his growing power.
The task commenced by Kabul was worthily continued by his son Kutula or Kublai. This warrior was long a popular hero among his people, who delighted in the recital of his marvellous deeds. He too won several battles over the Kins, with whom the bitterness of the struggle had been intensified by the capture and execution of some of the members of the Mongol ruling family. His nephew Yissugei may be regarded as his successor; and in his youth Yissugei had learnt the meaning of defeat, when his father and a detachment of the clan had been overwhelmed by a neighbouring and rival people. On this occasion Yissugei had proved himself a good soldier, fighting bravely in the face of superior odds. The war with the Kins went on without cessation during these years, although only scant notice of it has been preserved. It is significant of the character of this new power to find it stated in the Kin history that the Mongols were being joined by many Khitans and Chinese. The Mongol confederacy was always rather a military brotherhood than a national league.
Yissugei warred more with his neighbours than with the Kins; but he is the first Mongol who is recognized by the Chinese as having been wholly independent of either of their rulers. His great successes over the Tartar tribes surrounding him were crowned by the capture of Temujin, one of their principal chiefs. The exact date of this event is in dispute, and it is rendered the more important as having been that also of the birth of Genghis. On Yissugei's return from battle he learnt that his wife was about to give birth to a son, to whom he gave the name of Temujin, after that of his captive. The little that is known of Yissugei shows that he worthily sustained the reputation of his House, but unquestionably he has no greater title to fame than that of being the father of Genghis Khan, who was probably born in A.D. 1162.
Genghis's birth-place is still known by the same name as when he first saw the light there, Dilun Boldak on the banks of the Onon. The authority to which he was the heir was of a limited character. Forty thousand families obeyed the commands of Yissugei, and when he died in A.D. 1175, the young Temujin succeeded to a divided inheritance. The tribesmen, despising the youth of Temujin, cast off in many cases their allegiance to him, and when he implored them with tears in his eyes to remain true to him, they refused and made a contemptuous reply. At this crisis his mother, the heroic Ogelen Eke, came boldly forward, and raising the national standard or cow-tailed banner of the Tartars, brought back to their allegiance many of those who were on the point of departing to seek their fortunes elsewhere. Her energy averted the disintegration of the tribe, but Temujin's authority was only recognized by about half the number of warriors who had owned Yissugei as their chief. It became Temujin's first task to retrieve the loss thus inflicted.
His principal enemy at this early stage of his career was Chamuka, the leader of the Juriats, a neighbouring tribe, and this chief was joined by the Taijuts, who were then illdisposed towards the Mongols. Chamuka, not content with
THE YOUTH OF GENGHIS.
the assistance of one tribe, appealed to several others to combine for the purpose of crushing Temujin. The young chief was unable to maintain his position against his numerous enemies, and one day he was made prisoner by the Taijuts, who subjected him to several indignities, even, it is affirmed, to that of the “cangue." He soon effected his escape, and many of his old comrades and relations again rallied round him. His astuteness enabled him to baffle the wiles of his enemy, who sought to recapture him by an invitation to a feast; but his good fortune carried him safely through the danger. Chamuka thereupon appears to have resolved to bring the struggle to an end by attacking Temujin in his own country; but Temujin wisely stood on the defensive, and when the allied army attacked him he drove it back with great loss. This decisive victory raised Temujin's military fame to a high point, and brought numerous allies to his banner. Temujin's private virtues were exalted in the same breath with his military capacity. “Temujin alone is generous and worthy of ruling a great people,” became the general opinion throughout the camping-places over the Mongolian steppes.
Already Temujin was aspiring to greater triumphs than any that could be won in his own country. By marriages, and by alliances based on identity of interests, he was bringing his neighbours into communion with himself, in order that he might extend his conquests. In A.D. 1194 he assisted the Kin ruler, Madacou, in an expedition against one of the Taijut clans, and for his good service he received a title of honour and rich presents. The latter excited the cupidity both of Temujin and of his followers, who had never seen such costly articles, and may in the end have contributed to the fall of the government which sent them. Temujin reaped additional profit from this campaign by the plunder of the Taijut tents, and this expedition in conjunction with the lieutenants of the Kins may be considered as the first of his greater and more successful undertakings. Temujin was in the thirty-third year of his age, when for the first time the perception came home to him of the weakness of the greatest of his neighbours.
The chief of the Keraits, a powerful tribe whose territory extended to the Hoangho, had also assisted the Kin Emperor